Popular Music Research Unit (PMRU)


Popular Music Research Unit (PMRU)

The Popular Music Research Unit provides a forum to investigate both contemporary and historical issues in the field of Popular Music. This can and does incorporate both practice led research and more traditionally disseminated textual research, touching on areas of musical analysis, critical musicology, performance, composition and songwriting.

Since its inception in 2009, PMRU has focussed on the shifting ground of contemporary relationships between music and publishing. This has taken the form of three study days entitled Shifting Ground (29.1.2010, 11.4.2011, 28.2.2012) and a project which combined a study day with various practice-based events and artefacts.

Shifting Ground

Shifting Ground seeks to bring together musicians, journalists, industry representatives and academics to explore relationships between music and publishing in all its forms. Our study days and symposia offer exciting opportunities to tap into current concerns about the effects of the internet on the dissemination of music, to explore how our experience of music is shaped by publications relating to it, and to explore more broadly the important issue of the relationship between music and commerce, both in a historical context and in the present.

The first two Shifting Ground study days divided into studies of contemporary music publishing and music journalism, while the third was a study of issues in copyright attendant upon the film Anyone Can Play Guitar (Canal Cat Films, 2011). Keynote speakers and key participants in the days have included: Barney Hoskyns, Fiona Maddocks, Alyn Shipton, Jon Spira, Hank Starrs, Barbara Zamoyska, and Stephen Navin, Chief Executive of the Music Publishers’ Association.

Current activity

A funding bid to the Arts and Humanities Research Council to achieve workshop status building on the Shifting Ground series.


Outputs from the Unit arising directly from its activities include:

  • a commissioned twenty-minute film (Anyone Can Clear Music: Seven Things you Need to Know about Music Clearance from the makers of Anyone Can Play Guitar, 2012)
  • an exhibition, Editions of You (26.3-24.4.2011), O3 Gallery Oxford, which included the work of 22 independent artists and 17 independent record labels
  • a peer-reviewed journal article (Dai Griffiths, ‘Words to songs and the internet: a comparative study of transcriptions of words to the song ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’, recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1973’, Popular Music and Society, 2013)
  • an MA dissertation: Marc Rose, ‘Music as Culture, Commodity, and Content: Musical Ownership and Copyright in the 21st Century’ (2012)

Editions of You

Editions of You celebrates and showcases self-publishing and self-releasing musicians and the handmade editions and releases they create. It explores the history, politics and creative processes of these forms of self publishing in the music and arts worlds; providing an opportunity to celebrate the cultural lineage of these forms whilst creating a forum for relevant contemporary musicians and artists to present their work. Editions of You supports independent artists and small labels interested in the handmade and the bespoke; they run both events and a distro.

Experimental DJ Practices

This project seeks to explore and promote experimental DJ practices

  • We believe in diversity and eclecticism of listening
  • We believe everyone can DJ
  • We believe even the most basic or domestic equipment can be used to DJ
  • We refuse to simply be consumers of musical cultural products
  • We are committed to being innovative creators utilising existing musical repertoires and recordings
  • We are committed to exploring new performance practices incorporating, but not confined or restricted to, DJ performance practice


Research Staff


Dr Dai Griffiths

Popular Music Research Unit

School of Arts
Oxford Brookes University
Headington Campus
Gipsy Lane
Oxford, OX3 0BP

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 484722
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 484952